Is Steinbeck fair to the California landowners? Can you find any people in the novel who try to be kind to the migrants who arrive penniless in California?
Steinbeck portrays the landowners in both Oklahoma and California as self-serving and callous. Their main interest is to make a profit from their crops. Their attitude toward the migrant workers is similar to that shown toward the slaves in the pre-Civil War South: they are mere tools to be used in their goal of making money. This reflects Steinbeck’s political leaning toward socialism, where government has control of production and distribution. When left to capitalism, in which owners make a profit they partially distribute to their employees in the form of wages, the workers will become victims of the greed of the owners. Steinbeck believes the government is the savior of the common man, not the landowners. The gentleman who manages the migrant camp is an example of the beneficent nature of government. He (on behalf of the government) is the only one who treats the migrants as human beings. The camp has facilities for cleaning, as well as self-government. The only authority is the people themselves, with the government providing whatever is necessary for life. The landowners are portrayed as a threat from the outside, ready to rush in and destroy the migrants.